Everything That Rises – Modern Cosmism featured in Harper’s Magazine

The prestigious Harper’s Magazine features the recent Modern Cosmism conference (New York, October 10, 2015) in an article titled Everything That Rises, published online and in the January 2016 issue of the print magazine.

“I have come to perceive a cosmos filled with superintelligent beings,” writes John Crowley. “The beings are ourselves a thousand or ten thousand years in the future, networked across galactic distances and accompanied by every human consciousness that has ever existed, resurrected from the abysm of time by quantum recovery techniques that even now can be shown not to violate the laws of physics.”

Crowley shows interest in, and an essentially positive evaluation of, the ideas discussed at the conference by Vlad Bowen, Ben Goertzel, James Hughes, Randal Koene, myself, and other friends.

Of course, Crowley has some caveats and qualifications. “Sometimes our speakers seemed not to respect that ‘possible within the laws of physics’ doesn’t mean ‘practicable,’ much less ‘on its way to us now,'” he says. “Paradoxically, the old cosmist visions, despite their extravagance and insubstantiality, can seem richer and more immediate than modern cosmism’s projects because they lack the drag of investment in actual, practical processes, which can seem primitive and doubtful, even wrongheaded.”

Actually I expressed similar qualifications in my talk: I guess contemporary ideas will seem naive to future scientists, just like Fedorov’s ideas seem naive to us. (see also: Technological resurrection concepts from Fedorov to Quantum Archaeology.)

Crowley concludes with a reference to Columbus, “a voyager who only dimly knew where he was going, and was wrong about where he arrived,” but is today celebrated in a brilliant, glittering, magic city – New York, in the new world that he discovered. Similarly, I think, our first stumbling steps on the road to space colonization, mind uploading, and Akashic physics, will eventually make the whole universe a brilliant, glittering, magic place.

A few excerpts of Crowley’s article are pasted below. Read the rest at Harper’s Magazine.


Over the course of the day the Russian cosmist tradition of past centuries was mentioned and honored as inspiration, but this conference was forward-looking to a high degree: the focus was on new cosmism, not old.

We receive life from our mothers and fathers; our duty is to reverse the process and give life back to them. That is the “common task” [Fedorov] said was set for humanity. Fedorov considered his immense project to be actually workable, achievable by as yet undiscovered technologies.

[Fedorov’s] ideas may only superficially resemble things like digitally uploaded minds and DNA, but the modern cosmists’ impulses and aspirations really do reflect Fedorovian ones: transforming humans into posthumans, achieving immortality, leaving Earth, expanding experience.

The brain is the substrate on which our information is stored and with which it is computed, but, the [substrate-independent minds] suggestion goes, it might be able to run on different hardware. Minds running on machine substrates can interface at speeds many times faster than our present abilities permit, and without error.

James Hughes, our conference transhumanist, suggested that if the self is an illusion, as Buddhists such as himself hold, then it can’t matter what devices and instantiations the so-called self might pass through.

Ben Goertzel predicts the appearance of an ultra-intelligent machine that would design better machines than people could. [This] is the much-talked-of (in these quarters at least) technological singularity, the point at which machines will create their own successors and incorporate all of us into their replications and thus their immortality.

Could quantum entanglement – the mysterious instant correlation of distantly separated subatomic particles – eventually make possible the connecting of every space-time moment to every other, and permit instant data channels between different places, different times, and different universes? If so, maybe “quantum archaeology” really could bring the dead back from when and where they are alive. Of course this would only allow the transmission of information, not stuff: Information You could cross time and space at the speed of light, but not the meat package that contains it, which by then will have been left behind anyway. At the conference, this vision was put before us by Giulio Prisco, a physicist and computer scientist, and a founding member of the wittily named Turing Church. (The Church–Turing hypothesis in mathematics defines what can be calculated by a “Turing machine,” that is, a computer.)

Read the rest at Harper’s Magazine.

Image from Wikimedia Commons – New Planet, by Konstantin Yuon.

  • spud100

    Dr. Prisco, congratulations on reaching the big time with the Harper’s article. I disagree about the vagueness observation, the author took. I know where we need to go as a species, restoration from death and better longevity. Intertestingly, Zoltan Istvan hit the big times as well. The UK Daily Mail-


    • Giulio Prisco

      Thanks Spud, and Happy New Year!

      Now, you don’t want to compare Harper’s with the Daily Mail, do you.

      I also know where we need to go as a species, including as you say better longevity and – eventually – restoration from death, but I am afraid it will take longer than we wish. However, we are on the road, and that’s the important thing.


      unSingularity – let’s enjoy the slow hike to the future

      Re vagueness, our ideas for the next steps in the slow hike to the future are precise (though the unexpected can always happen) but our ideas for the long term are necessarily vague because we don’t know enough of how the universe works. Yet. And, again, we are on the road, and that’s the important thing.

      Last night I was thinking that I would be happy to clean toilets for a living if I could do that on a starship. Then I thought that I, and you, ane everyone, are on a starship – starship Earth, en route to a wonderful cosmic destiny. All the little things that we do to maintain the straship en route and all the toilets that we clean are meaningful, and important.

      • spud100

        Happy New Year, Guilio! Are you sure that Harper’s is the better of the two? The Daily Mail has been criticized since the Beatles Revolver album in 66. Listen to “Paperback Writer” for that trip down Memory Lane. Yes, I do concur that the DM cover’s itself with the Kardashian obsession (Americans have nothing to rival this!) but they did cover this article yesterday too! A look at a Cornell University scientist for this one.


        I love your “slow hike” to the future, for it permits other persons to come along and live and die through life, and form their own opinions- if there is a Later? If one is resurrected or reincarnated (as Ben Goertzel calls it) many of us will have psychological difficulties believing that what exists postmortem, is really us. They need God (of some sort) as the carrier of continuity and maybe he or she is, if you go by Steinharts’ various, concepts? Maybe this computer is God and will do this service, or maybe it’s our great-great grandchildren who will set for the “restored,” a proper terrarium?

        This is all fantasy, of course, yet it is based on solid extrapolations with astronomy, physics, computer science, and chemistry. For this, Cosmism is the best horse to ride because it’s a science-based philosophy, it is Universalist, it looks at our species as a significant part of the universe with a proper destiny. It can be applied to atheists and religious alike. Your Cosmism will provide an open source resource that all may use. Not a bad record for this vicinity.

        “We lay to rest, old Sally McGinity.

        She died at 103.
        For 15 years she kept her virginity,
        Now, that’s not a bad record for this vicinity,”

        • Giulio Prisco

          “Better” is multi-dimensional. Harper’s Magazine has much better content for thinkers, sophisticated and intellectually challenging. See for example this article, also in January’s Harper’s:

          But of course the Daily Mail is more popular and has many more readers. Daily Mail stories are often sensationalist, poorly researched and written, and often contain wrong facts and quotes, but the Daily Mail is what most people read.

          At the same time, intellectual who wouldn’t read the Daily Mail are likely to read Harper’s.

          We should aim at both, the Daily Mail for popularity and Harper’s for depth and intellectual appeal, and to influence the influencers.

  • magnus

    Hello and a happy new year from former viking land!
    I have a feeling that the cosmist/transhumanist/immortalist movements, a swarm, are really getting some momentum now. Maybe it is time to create the scandinavian ‘taste’ of cosmism? Just to increasethe swarm.


    • Giulio Prisco

      Hi Magnus, and Happy New Year!

      I think creating “the scandinavian ‘taste’ of cosmism” would be a great way to start 2016 with good works. Please do, and let me know how I can help.